By Andrew Hobbs

CHANGES to Western Australian regulations surrounding hydraulic fracturing for unconventional gas will be made later this year after the state government announced it would adopt 10 out of 12 recommendations made by a parliamentary inquiry.

The WA Legislative Council standing committee on the environment and public affairs report 42 – Implications for Western Australia of Hydraulic Fracturing for Unconventional Gas was handed down in November last year after a two year public inquiry.

While the government’s response to the inquiry is still before the Legislative Council, a larger review of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources (Resource Management and Administration) regulations is set to take place later this year.

The committee specifically recommended the state abolish regulations that allow a company to keep information which it had provided to a minister confidential if it argued the information was a trade secret or would have an adverse effect on business – and the minister did not dispute this argument.

In the report, the committee found that this part of the regulations did not meet the Department of Mines and Petroleum’s (DMP) intention of providing “transparent and open communication and engagement with the public regarding hydraulic fracturing.”

In comments provided to Oil & Gas Australia, DMP executive director petroleum Jeff Haworth said the DMP would start a review of the regulations later this year – and a review of those particular regulations would be an integral part of that work.

“An external consultation process will form a part of this regulatory process,” he said.

DMP was also working towards establishing a working group to draft legislation for a statutory framework for land access agreements between land owners and resource companies, Mr Haworth said, with the department to make contact with candidate members in the near future.

Western Australia’s Department of Water (DoW) is also reviewing its working arrangements with the Water Corporation, Western Australia’s largest water service provider, in light of the report recommendations.

DoW executive director policy and innovation Tad Bagdon said the arrangements were being reviewed to determine if they met all the referral criteria regarding onshore petroleum activities.

“We expect that this review of the arrangements will take a few months and be finalised later this year,” he said.

“Any need for additional formal arrangements will be identified and developed between the DoW and water service providers.”

The government also committed to baseline monitoring of acquifers and publishing such data, banning the deliberate addition of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene to hydraulic fracture stimulation fluids and to lift fines from their current maximum of $10,000.